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Today in Black History, 3/10/2011

· March 10, 1856 Augustus Walley, Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Reistertown, Maryland. On August 16, 1881, Walley was serving as a private in Company I of the 9th Cavalry Regiment when he participated in an engagement in the Cuchillo Negro Mountains of New Mexico. He was cited for “bravery in action with hostile Apaches” for helping rescue stranded soldiers under heavy fire. For his actions, Walley was awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration, on October 1, 1890. Walley remained in the army until 1907, serving in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars. He was recalled to duty during World War I and reached the rank of first sergeant. Walley died April 9, 1938.

· March 10, 1908 Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, civil rights leader, was born in Forrest County, Mississippi. A successful businessman, Dahmer owned a store, sawmill, and a 200-acre farm. He served several terms as president of the Forrest County Chapter of the NAACP and led voter registration drives during the 1960s. He also helped other African Americans pay their poll tax for the right to vote. On the night of January 10, 1966, his home was firebombed. His wife and children escaped but he was severely burned and died the following day. Authorities indicted 14 men, most with Ku Klux Klan connections, for the attack on Dahmer’s home. Four were convicted and one entered a guilty plea. In 1998, Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers was convicted for his involvement in the crime and sentenced to life in prison. A street and a park in Hattiesburg are named in Dahmer’s honor.

· March 10, 1913 Harriet Tubman, abolitionist, Union Army spy and suffragist, died. Born Araminta Ross enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland around 1820, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia in 1849. Immediately, she returned to Maryland to rescue her family and over the years she made 13 missions to rescue over 70 enslaved people using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. Tubman, known as Moses, never lost a passenger. During the Civil War, Tubman worked for the Union Army as an armed scout and spy. She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition when she led the raid on the Combahee River, which liberated more than 700 enslaved people. Tubman was also active in the women’s suffrage movement. After she died, Tubman was buried with military honors. Dozens of schools are named in her honor and in 1944 the United States Maritime Commission launched the SS Harriet Tubman, the first Liberty ship ever named for a black woman. In 1978, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in her honor. Tubman’s biography, “Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman,” was published in 1869. Tubman’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

· March 10, 1965 Roderick Kevin “Rod” Woodson, hall of fame football player, was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Woodson played college football at Purdue University and was an All-American defensive back in 1985 and 1986. He also was twice awarded All-America honors in track and field. After graduating from Purdue with a degree in criminal justice, Woodson was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1987 NFL Draft. Over his 17 season professional career, Woodson was an eleven-time Pro Bowl selection. He retired in 2003 and holds the league records for most interceptions returned for touchdowns and most interception return yards. Woodson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009 and currently works as an analyst for the NFL Network.

· March 10, 1965 Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin, suffragette and civil rights activist, died. Lampkin was born August 9, 1883 in Washington, D. C. After moving to Pittsburgh, she joined the New Negro Women’s Equal Franchise Federation which was later renamed the Lucy Stone League. In 1915, she became president of the league, a position she held until 1955. She also served as national board chairwoman of the National Association of Colored Women and assisted Mary McLeod Bethune in founding the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. In 1930, Lampkin was recruited by the NAACP as the first field secretary for the organization and in 1935 she was promoted to national field secretary. During her last year in that position, 1947, she raised more than $1 million dollars for the organization. Lampkin was the NAACP Woman of the Year in 1945 and in 1964 she was given the Eleanor Roosevelt-Mary McLeod Bethune World Citizenship Award. Her home in Pittsburgh was designated a historical landmark in 1983, the first time the state of Pennsylvania awarded a plaque to honor an African American in the city.

· March 10, 1997 LaVern Baker, rhythm and blues singer, died. Born Delores LaVern Baker on November 11, 1929 in Chicago, Illinois. She began singing in Chicago clubs under various names around 1946 before settling on LaVern Baker in 1952. Baker had her first hit, “Tweedlee Dee,” in 1955 and had a succession of hits over the next several years, including “Jim Dandy” (1956), “I Cried a Tear” (1959), and “See See Rider” (1963). In the late 1960s, she became entertainment director at a Marine Corps night club at the Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines and remained there for 22 years. She returned to the United States in 1988 and worked on movie soundtracks, including “Shag” (1989), “Dick Tracy” (1990), and “A Rage in Harlem” (1991). In 1990, she made her Broadway debut starring in the hit musical “Black and Blue.” Also in 1990, she received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and in 1991 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Baker made her last recording, “Jump into the Fire,” in 1995.

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Gregory Lucas-Myers is a 2010 University of Michigan - Ann Arbor graduate, possessing a B.A. in English with a focus in creative writing.